"There were lots of reasons, but two stood out for me. Firstly, they are vendor independent and this meant that they weren’t pushing a specific solution at us. We were confident, therefore, that they would develop what was right for us, not what was right for them. Secondly, they talked about the challenge from a business perspective.

That was just so refreshing. All the others talked technology. Evaxyx talked business, and specifically our business.”

Background

RWE npower is an integrated energy business, generating electricity and supplying gas, electricity and related services to customers across the UK with a 2009 turnover of approximately £6 billion. The company serves around 6 million customer accounts and produces more than 10% of the electricity used in England and Wales.

The Challenge

Like most large organisations, RWE npower had data issues.

Their biggest challenge was to make the data work for them. “We are a utility company, not a data company. We obviously have lots of data and while we are able to manage it, we were struggling to structure it in way that worked for npower as a business.” said npower’s Gareth Ruddle.

The need for data governance was driven by the requirement within the business to make change happen more effectively by identifying synergies across projects. Data collisions – where data changed on one project was having an adverse impact on the same data being used in another project – ultimately impacting on the quality of the projects delivered, the costs associated and the change processes.

Gareth added: “We have very good IT professionals who can structure it in a systems way, and while we can manage our data, we knew that to get the best from that data we needed to put in place structured data modelling from a business perspective.”

The big challenge facing Gareth was that they didn’t have data modelling expertise in their business: “This was a big issue for us. We knew what we needed to do. But we also knew that we could only get this support externally.”

The Approach

Gareth and his team looked at various solutions before deciding to work with data specialists Evaxyx. So why Evaxyx?

Once engaged, Evaxyx embarked on a three-stage programme. The first stage was to better understand the current situation. Evaxyx Principal Consultant Melanie Hodge worked closely with the npower team, helping them to understand the different levels of data modelling, from key subject area models through to conceptual modelling; and importantly, what the purpose was of those different models. “Education and knowledge transfer was critical” said Melanie. “What we were striving for was data governance and to achieve that we needed to develop understanding in those responsible for data so that we could better identify and educate data stewards.”

As part of this stage, Melanie carried out an audit, which mainly consisted of her team interviewing key stakeholders in the organisation and building a better understanding of their data usage and management. One of the results of this was to create a subject area model to identify key subject areas, thereby providing an overall picture of what was going on at a high level, “What I liked about this” said Gareth, “was that they did this really quickly. It really gave us confidence that we had found the right partner.”

The picture created by Evaxyx identified various collision points, overlaps and problems caused by lack of clarity over data references. The next step therefore, was for Evaxyx to build the consistency required and remove ambiguity by creating a Business Dictionary and Data Catalogue. “We have to have clarity over the terms we use. We have different divisions, for example we have a retail division and a commercial division, and they may use a similar term but have a different meaning. For example, the subject area ‘customer’ may mean existing customer to one division, but may mean both a past and existing customer to another division. Unless you have clarity then you cannot get an overall picture of the business,” said Gareth.

Once the dictionary and catalogue had been established the next step was to ensure that full data governance could be managed by identifying data stewards within the organisation. “Using the data governance model of data models, dictionary and catalogue, npower was able to identify appropriate data stewards, people that would be prepared to take ownership and be accountable for the robustness and accuracy of their data. We also wanted individuals who would be motivated to improve it, to spot errors and to make it work better. We now have accountable data stewards, and that gives us the important data governance we need to move the business forward.”

The initial project is now complete, with Evaxyx providing on-going support. npower’s Gareth is adamant that they couldn’t have done it without Evaxyx: “We know what we are good at and what we aren’t good at; and we weren’t business data modellers. This was something we needed if we were going to get our data governance right. By having the right people in place, Evaxyx have enabled us to get there – and to get there fast.”

The Benefits

  • Consistency of data, and therefore quality of information, across the organisation
  • Programmes developed more quickly and more accurately
  • Establishment of data stewards to deliver continuity
  • Global picture to enable better corporate decision making